Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

College Trip Tips for the People Who Aren’t Going to College – the Parents

November 6th, 2015
East Coast of America

Third child, third college trip, too many information sessions and campus tours to count. I’ll take the pain of childbirth (ok, there was an epidural on constant drip) over the tedium of information sessions and campus tours any day. Yale, Brown, Columbia, Princeton, Penn and Georgetown. Must they all say essentially the same thing? Couldn’t they just join forces and host one session, say in Vegas with a show afterwards? Here’s my third (and last, Hooray!) child mid-trip.


The only way I can distinguish between what I heard at Princeton from Brown is that in the former the speaker was wearing a headband and pearls, and in the latter the speaker had red hair and blue tights. Beyond that, I’m voting for Vegas.

Some easy  tips for parents:

Go with a friend (i.e. fellow parent) with a sense of humour.

If possible skip the campus tour and get a student you know to show you around – that will be 1,000 times more honest and fun. Even better, take a student out for a meal. Free food is the best currency for college scoop.

Sit in on a class.

Visit during autumn –


Visit during Halloween. Sleeping Beauty and Elmo below at Georgetown.


And remember to breathe when you and your child get on each other’s nerves. Close quarters and all. Inhale deeply when the  teeny hotel bathroom is covered with her makeup, assorted beauty products and random items of clothing, everything but a toothbrush, which she forgot.

“It’s no big deal,” she says,  refusing to use mine as a backup. “That’s kind of gross, Mommy.”

Grosser than the alternative, I wonder? Breathe. This particular  trip is God’s way of making everyone excited about college.

But it’s not all gloom. I have asked a trusted bunch of college kids for their top tips. So if your future includes  information sessions and campus tours in New Haven, Providence, Philadelphia and/or Georgetown, don’t despair. Read on.

Fun-loving Cristina, a recent Yale grad and second from right, offers these New Haven suggestions:


Edgewood Gallery often falls under the radar and they do beautiful shows there (just behind Pierson) – Rob Storr often curates. YCBA and YUAG — always cool student-oriented programming so good to check websites before going for tours, talks etc. Albers Foundation is in Bethany, CT and by appointment only… It’s such a beautiful place, and only thirty minutes from Yale.


Here is Saria, a sophomore at Brown, in front of a RISD designed blow-up structure.


“The best thing about Providence is definitely the food… it’s amazing!”

Saria’s favorite restaurants include parent’s weekend classics New Rivers and Al Forno. For breakfast she likes the charming and quaint Kitchen (very small, just fits 14 ppl – no reservation) with its homey breakfasts – delicious thick bacon and croissant, french toast, all styles of egg and huevos rancheros.

And for the adventurous, try North (chef trained under head guy at Momofuku in NY… very strange and delicious menu – Dan Dan noodles, for example, are korean rice cakes with fermented chili, squid and mutton… the vinegar for oysters changes daily, and the mustard that goes with the ham also changes daily…once it was Dr. Pepper mustard).

Once fed and watered, Saria recommends seeing the RISD Museum. Stay at the hip boutique Dean Hotel (beats the huge, impersonal Omni any day) and order a Bolt Coffee on the ground floor cafe to keep you wide-eyed for forthcoming session.

Next up is Ale, looking very healthy at Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. 

Ale Philly

Ale suggested I take my daughter and two Penn frat boys (talk about good scoop!) to Parc, Philly’s version of Balthazar in the picturesque Rittenhouse District. I loved it, almost as much as I loved my massage and pilates class at the Rittenhouse Spa & Club across the square. Every college trip parent deserves a bit of pampering.

Other eating spots Ale likes are VernickTintoBarbuzzoThe DandelionBarclay PrimeTalula’s Garden, and Amada.

Shoppers should browse Walnut Street. Don’t miss Rittenhouse Square’s upscale, eclectic boutique Joan Shepp.

Art lovers might want to pop into the Barnes Foundation, as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sylvester Stallone made a promotional return to the museum  last week – 40 years after Rocky was first filmed training on the museum steps.

And for Georgetown,  my eldest Kate has such a long list of shops and restaurants that I had to yell, ‘Cut’. A parent’s job is never done.


Here’s the abbreviated version: For restaurants in Georgetown but slightly off the beaten track Kate suggests Café Bonaparte,  a cute little French restaurant and Unum, on M Street, close to the Four Seasons. She also likes Baked & Wired, a delish bakery with really good cupcakes and coffee.

Burn off those carbs at Kate’s fave,  Fuel Pilates on 37th Street.

“The owner Kelly was so nice and loved us all.”

Core Power is good for a cardio hot yoga workout.

Kate recommends exploring nearby Washington DC.  Le Diplomate and Zaytinya are two restaurants that top her lengthy list. Zaytinya is Greek/Mediterranean by the Capital and Le Diplomate is a buzzy French brasserie in an up and coming neighborhood.

Make time for the Newseum and the The Philips Collection with its Rothko room.

And for shoppers, Kate is emphatic:

 “Hu’s Wear is the best shop  by far in Georgetown. Let me know if you want any more ideas – obviously I have more, haha”

November, 2015